Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen'
John was born on the 23rd April 1876 in Gorton, Manchester. He was baptised on the 2nd September 1877. His mother was called Jane. His father's name is not listed on the baptism record. He was a member of the Church of England and he had an uncle named George, but we don't know anything else about his family or early life.
By early 1895 John was working as a labourer. He was also a member of the 4th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so John will have kept his civilian job for most of the year and trained as a soldier for a short period annually. We don't know how long he had been serving in the Militia when he decided to join the Regular Army.
John enlisted in the Manchester Regiment at Ashton-under-Lyne on the 25th March. He told the Army he was 1 year older than he actually was. When he enlisted John was 5 feet 3 3/4 inches tall and weighed 131 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. There was a scar on the 'outside of his left arm' and a birthmark above his right hip. John was given the service number 4574 and began his training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton. John's uncle George lived at 37 Peel Street, off Wellington Road in Ashton when John enlisted.
After around 2 weeks John left Ashton to join the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Preston, Lancashire. He served as a member of H Company until February 1897, when they were in Aldershot, Hampshire. John left them and the UK on the 8th and sailed to India to join the 2nd Battalion in Dinapore, now Danapur in Bihar State. Just after he arrived, on the 25th March, he began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay.
We don't know anything about what John did in Dinapore. The 2nd Battalion left India in mid January 1898 and moved to Aden, in modern Yemen, for the next year. Whilst he was there John was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 10th May. He would revert to Private on the 4th January 1899.
John received another pay rise on the 1st September 1898 when he elected to 'come under the terms of Army Order Number 65 of 1898'. This ended the practice of deducting 2d per day from John's pay to cover the cost of his food, but meant he would not receive the money back in a lump sum when he left the Army.
The 2nd Battalion arrived back in the UK during December 1898. They were based in a number of different garrisons between then and April 1899. On the 14th John left the 2nd Battalion for a posting at the Regimental Depot. We don't know what he did there.
In October 1899 the Boer War broke out in South Africa. The British struggled to defeat the Boer Army and more soldiers were sent as the war dragged on. The 2nd Battalion was one of these units; John returned to them on the 10th March, just before they set sail for South Africa. They arrived on the 6th April 1900.
The 2nd Battalion took part in fighting to the west of Harrismith during July 1900, which qualified John and his comrades for the 'Wittebergen' clasp. He was a member of A Company during this period.
Having more soldiers available meant that the British Army could try to force the Boers to face it in battle. By the end of 1900 they had captured most Boer towns, but the Boers refused to surrender and began to fight as guerrillas in small units.
Later in the war John served with a Mounted Infantry Company formed by the 2nd Battalion. This was part of the 14th Mounted Infantry Battalion. It took part in sweeps across the countryside aimed at restricting the movements of Boer fighters and preventing them from avoiding British forces. This strategy was eventually successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.
John was not there to see this victory. He was either wounded or fell ill in late 1901 or early 1902. He was invalided back to the UK and arrived on the 24th January. John's Good Conduct Pay had been increased to 2d per day on the 17th March 1901, but almost a year later on the 17th March he forfeited 1d of this. We don't know what he had done.
When he returned to the UK John was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Aldershot. Most men enlisted in the Regular Army for 7 years to be followed by 5 years in the Army Reserve. John's time was up so he was transferred to the Reserve on the 8th July. As a Reservist John was free to find a home and a job, but he could be called back to the Army in an emergency at any point during the rest of his service. John's time in the Reserve came to an end on the 24th March 1907.
By then John had a family. He married Martha Ann Dean in Ashton on the 31st October 1903. By 1911 they had 4 children: John Henry was born on the 17th January 1904, James on the 25th May 1905, Nellie on the 29th August 1907 and Albert in around February 1911.
In the April 1911 Census the family lived at 37 Peel Street in Ashton, where John's uncle George had lived in 1895. We don't know what had happened to him. John was a contractor and worked as an outside labourer. Martha worked as a cardroom hand in a cotton mill. They shared their house with John's 7 year old nephew William Warren and the Greaves family; John, Mary and their children William, Ada and Bertha.
The rest of John's life is a mystery. He died in Ashton between April and June 1952. He was 75 years old. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in April 1997. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, John was also awarded the King's South Africa Medal with clasp 'South Africa 1901' for his Army service.